Weekend Hot Topic, part 2: Are you impressed by the Xbox Series X?

GameCentral readers evaluate Microsoft’s next gen Xbox plans and reveal what they’d do if they were in charge of the company.

The subject for this week’s Hot Topic was inspired by the recent Xbox Games Showcase and asked the obvious question: how do you think Microsoft are doing with their next gen plans so far?

There were, as you might expect, a lot of criticisms of Microsoft’s approach, especially in terms of apparently contradictory statements and the impression that they seem unprepared for their own console. But many were still optimistic about the Xbox Series X and many of its games, including Halo Infinite.

Make me go wow
I’m just not a fan of these showcases, they feel forced to me and I missed E3. I would rather Microsoft and Sony just had a big E3 with some developers showcasing their gameplay. But I did choose to watch Microsoft’s event and it was exactly what I thought it would be. Lots of trailers and announcements with nothing really astounding but nothing really bad either.

I will get the Xbox Series X, depending on price bundles obviously, because of its specs, smart delivery, backwards compatibility, etc. And also, I’m a fan of Bloober Team’s work, so I’m looking forward to The Medium. That and Resident Evil 8 and Hellblade 2 should be enough. And I know it will have big third party support and indie titles, etc.

But I admit there is something still lacking, games-wise. I would like Xbox to show two games at least that make me go wow and really sit up and take notice.

If they can do that then great, but I’m rational and don’t expect to see its power being utilised straightaway.

As for Halo Infinite, it’s hard to judge in that they showed only a small part of the world. If it’s open world then how does the rest of it perform? Is it bug free with no game freezes or glitches? I just want a smooth gaming experience, that’s the least I will be hoping for next gen. I’m hoping to see a notable improvement on Xbox Series X when it comes to overall performance and bugs, etc.

Developers now have the power that they crave so it’s time to deliver.

Come back later
Despite being a really good games showcase my main takeaway after both of Microsoft’s events is that they are nowhere near ready for next gen. After two conferences we still haven’t seen a game running on the new hardware, with everything being PC footage ‘representative of Xbox Series X’.

GC themselves have commented that Microsoft’s next gen focus seems muddled and I think this is partly because they just aren’t ready. Not only has nothing been shown on a Xbox Series X but everything that has been shown for next gen has contradicted their main messages.

Games like Fable, Forza Motorsport, Avowed, etc. all seem to be Xbox Series X-only, which goes against Microsoft’s stance that next gen-only games are anti-consumer. They’re all years away though and their other studios still have existing multiformat commitments or are part way through developing games designed for Xbox One. So basically, the studios are not ready to launch next gen games. Microsoft’s cross-gen commitment is just a way to turn this into a positive but it’s obvious they don’t really believe in it.

They’ve also said that cross-gen won’t hold back Xbox Series X. Then they demoed Halo Infinite. Which looked like a bang average current gen game. Even the big next gen feature of ray-tracing is only being patched in at some unspecified time after launch. This is their flagship launch game and again makes it look like Microsoft’s first party have not had dev kits for very long.

I know the 2020 situation hasn’t helped and I’m hoping we’ll see something over the coming months from both Sony and Microsoft that shows the day one benefits of next gen, as so far they both look like they’re launching a year too soon.

Get the games out
I think Microsoft’s next gen plans are shambolic, to be honest. There were few games shown in the showcase that were interesting and many of them seem years away. For example, Everwild seemed interesting but I later saw an interview where a developer said, ‘Part of the reason we haven’t talked a lot about Everwild is because we’re still feeling a lot of these things out. We’re still playing around with gameplay ideas.’ Which certainly sounds like we shouldn’t expect to see it till 2022.

Phil Spencer talked a good game about getting Japanese developers on board but when it came to the showcase, all we saw was Dragon Quest 11, a game that originally came out in 2017 [plus Balan Wonderworld and Phantasy Star Online 2 – GC]. And while the Xbox Series X will get the superior S version that came out on the Switch last year… it’s exactly the S version.

When the showcase was happening there was the natural assumption that the Xbox Series X version would marry the superior visuals of the PlayStation 4 version with the massive amounts of extra content of the Switch version, but this is not the case – it will be the Switch version visuals, which while technically impressive given the Switch’s spec, is rather disappointing for the Xbox Series X. [We agree that is very disappointing, although the resolution and frame rate will be higher than the Switch – GC] And disappointing was the Xbox showcase all over – I certainly have no plans right now to buy one at least through to the end of next year.

Regarding Halo Infinite’s graphics, I think complaints are valid – they do seem rather sad for what is obviously supposed to be the killer app to convince people to buy an Xbox Series X. This game has the same position as games like Super Mario 64 for the N64, Sonic Adventure for the Dreamcast or Resistance: Fall Of Man on the PlayStation 3, as the vanguard to showcase the platform, but has not hyped up the fanbase at all.

If I was the head of Xbox right now I’d be surprised I still had a job. Microsoft’s new console is just months away but it seems like Microsoft were the last to find out about it, with some games that look rushed and other games that are just video reels that are obviously years away. They have had ample preparation time – the Xbox Series X will come out roughly seven years after the Xbox One, one of the longest times between consoles since NES to SNES.

And a few years ago they seemed to be on a buying spree of developers, and yet the Xbox Series X seems to have taken them by surprise with little available for launch, and they seem happier rambling about cross-gen games which are then clarified as not cross-gen, and Xbox as a service rather than worrying about supporting their new console.

Although not to the same degree, they seem to be repeating the old Mattrick mistakes of concentrating on services and not getting the games out.
Lord Darkstorm

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Day one
I have watched both the recent Xbox next gen presentations and come away from both feeling rather underwhelmed. I can’t help but think that Microsoft don’t help themselves with confusing messaging and contradictory announcements. Didn’t they realise that announcing that they would have no exclusives for two years undermines the fundamental point of upgrading to the next gen? And after repeating this would be the case they then appear to back flip, so now it’s not clear what the approach is.

Then surely, someone involved in the Xbox Games Showcase, prepping Halo Infinite for its gameplay world premiere, would have realised that running an old build on a PC was going to draw the wrath of the internet. Now, I’m no graphics snob (I don’t even game on a 4K TV and I’m one of the few who can’t seem to notice much difference between 30fps and 60fps) but watching the demo even I was surprised by how noticeable issues like texture pop-in was.

Once the more technically-minded parts of the internet pulled it apart it seems like 343 Industries are already on the back foot. I am sure the game will recover, and hopefully be a great entry in the series, but as the flagship game at launch it really shouldn’t be this way.

Games Pass is clearly the differentiator for Microsoft going into the next gen and I don’t agree that it’s quantity over quality. There are clearly a wide selection of titles on offer and it provides access to many games that would otherwise be overlooked. Whilst this could be the not-so-secret weapon that helps to catch Sony I still feel that Microsoft’s lack of truly first class exclusives will mean that it will be another generation of playing catch-up to Sony.

Whatever transpires over the next few months I plan to jump into the next generation at day one, however this will likely be with Sony’s platform. I simply have more confidence that their exclusives will be of a high standard and suit my gaming likes more than those of the Xbox. It’s overdue for both companies to confirm all the details of their new consoles though; release dates, price, functionality, operating system, backwards compatibility, unique features.

We are now in August, just three or four months from the expected release. These things matter and both need to be doing more to inform us, their customers, beyond showing mere gameplay videos and trailers.
ProEvoSan78 (PSN ID)

Killing the Xbox
The Reader’s Feature about Xbox One having games to play is right, they have got games. The only problem is how many they have got. Forget next gen for the moment, we haven’t really heard that much about them, but you read out five or six games available on Xbox One, the problem is they’re also available on PC at the same time. But the bigger problem is you’re getting to a point where you will have more consoles then your own games.

The other Reader’s Feature was spot on, they should delay the Xbox Series X for two years, get a build-up of games for it, get a few in the pipeline and go all out. A console needs a USP; keep Game Pass, it’s worth the money, do away thought with this one game plays on all, it’s killing the Xbox. Keep it as you buy on Xbox you get the best available version.

Also, to sell the Xbox Series X they need to stop this will come out on PC same day. Take Sony, their games came out on PlayStation 4 and its only now at the end of the gen they’re looking at PC. And me as a PlayStation 4 owner, I’m fine with that. I played them games years ago, I’m not fussed what they do. Microsoft need a USP and at the mo’ all they got is Halo, which was a let down.

GC: Horizon Zero Dawn is Sony’s first experiment on the PC, there is currently no clue how they’ll handle future releases and if they’ll be for much more recent games.

Primary console
On the subject of the PlayStation 5 I think my age at 43 has hardened me to new console releases. I am just not excited by the apparent leap in graphical quality. I remember when a new console brought new genres and huge leaps in the graphics. Since we hit the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 gen the difference to me is incremental rather than industry changing.

I totally get that younger readers may be hyped for the release but the AAA market with microtransactions and all that nonsense Jim Sterling likes to fill his YouTube channel with generally isn’t for me. I am increasingly turning to retro consoles – maybe it’s an age thing.

The PlayStation 5 feels like a console marketed at the 12 to 25 demographic. The Xbox Series X has the back catalogue carried over, so if any console will be bought its likely to be that one. Nintendo demonstrate time and time again that gameplay is what is important and it’s for that reason my Switch is my primary console and looks to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

Catch up on every previous Games Inbox here

An example
Xbox Games Showcase, was an example of how to do a presentation, even though I was more hyped with Sony’s event from not too long ago. Microsoft made this event more exciting basically by giving us what us gamers want, new boundary-breaking games!

Games like Everwild were hitting the whole nature and magic mix, like a certain Studio Ghibli animation company. Everwild looked like a style of cel-shaded artistry, a concept I have loved since Ōkami and of course the newest Zelda game Breath of the Wild, with The Wind Waker before. It looked gorgeous and it’ll probably feel like you’re playing in a dream, and an epic one at that.

Fable and Avowed will definitely do it for me, if all the promises from the previous Fable games deliver the artificial intelligence of which we all wanted from a Lionhead Studios game from previous years, then that’ll be awesome if it does just that. Whilst the Obsidian developers from Fallout: New Vegas fame should hopefully deliver the goods for their new fantastical world to explore.

Like some gamers thought, Halo Infinite was a bit underwhelming, though I never followed the series. I still found it looked like a remaster from a previous era of the franchise. As Dusk Falls looks like an interesting title and an emotionally driven title which could leave the gamer with a new way of thinking of how games can be played out, plus affect themselves emotionally. As for State Of Decay 3, who knows. I want it to be good but as it was only CGI I could not tell!

Which is my main issue with the event and why I liked Sony’s better. Too much currently in development for the next two years or whatever, from Microsoft’s various development teams. Whilst a much bigger example of gameplay and imminent games, possibly within the year, from the Sony event.

Either way, Microsoft delivered the possibilities and it worked for now. Hopefully the fruits of their labours will match in terms of exciting and immersive games to reach us eventually. Which is all us gamers want in the end.

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The small print
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